Page images
PDF
EPUB

kind. Their faith in the touch of a Macdonald is very great.”

Ibid. vol. iii. p. 379: The minister of Applecross, in the county of Ross, speaking of the superstitions of the parish, says, “ There are none of the common calamities or distressful accidents incident to man or beast but hath had its particular Charm or Incantation: they are generally made up of a group of unconnected words, and an irregular address to the Deity, or to some one of the Saints. The desire of health, and the power of superstition, reconciled many to the use of them ; nor are they, as yet, among the lower class, wholly fallen into disuse. Credulity and ignorance are congenial; every country hath its vulgar errors; opinions early imbibed and cherished for generations are difficult to be eradicated."

Ibid. vol. i. p. 507 : “ The minister of Meigle parish, having informed us that in the churchyard of Meigle are the remains of the grand sepulchral monument of Vanora, called also Vanera, Wanor, and Guinevar, the British Helena,” adds: “the fabulous Boece records a tradition prevailing in his time, viz. that, if a young Woman should walk over the grave of Vanora, she shall entail on herself perpetual sterility." See Luciani Opera, p. 272.

“ To cure Warts, steal a piece of beef from a butcher's shop and rub your warts with it: then throw it down the necessary-house, or bury it; and as the beef rots, your warts will decay." See more superstitions relating to Warts in Turner on the “ Diseases of the Skin," and in La Forest, “L'Art de soigner les Pieds,” p. 75.

6) Grose says, that « a Dead man's Hand is supposed to have the quality of dispelling tumours, such as Wers, or swelled glands, by striking with it, nine times, the place affected. It seems as if the hand of a person dying a violent death was deemed particularly efficacious; as it very frequently happens that nurses bring children to be stroked with the hands of executed Criminals, even whilst they are hanging on the gallows.'

“ A Halter, wherewith any one has been hanged, if tied about the head, will cure the Head-ach."

" Moss growing on a human skull, if dried, powdered, and taken as snuff, will cure the Head-ach."

“ The chips or cuttings of a gibbet, or gallows, on which one or more persons have been executed or exposed, if worn next the skin, or round the neck in a bag, will cure the Ague, or prevent it."

I saw, a few years ago, some dust, in which blood was absorbed, taken, for the purpose of charming away some disease or other, from off the scaffold on the beheading of one of the rebel lords in 1746.

In “ The Life of Nicholas Mooney,” a notorious highwayman, executed at Bristol, April 24th, 1752, with other malefactors, we read, p. 30, “ After the cart drew away, the hangman very deservedly had his head broke for endeavouring to pull off Mooney's shoes ; and a fellow had like to have been killed in mounting the gallows, to take away the Ropes that were left after the malefactors were cut down. A young woman came fifteen miles for the sake of the Rope from Mooney's neck, which was given to her; it being by many apprehended that the Halter of an executed person will charm away the Ague, and perform many other cures.

In the “ Times” newspaper of August 26, 1819, in an account of the execution of a Jew, named Abraham Abrahams, on Pinnenden Heath (copied from the “ Maidstone Gazette, ) we read : “ After the body had hung some time, several persons applied for permission to rub the hand of the deceased over their Wens, which by the vulgar is vidly believed to be a cure for those troublesome swellings; but the Jews in attendance told them they could not suffer the body to be touched by any but their own people, it being contrary to their customs."

Grose has preserved a foreign piece of superstition, firmly believed in many parts of France, Germany, and Spain. He calls it, “Of the Hand of Glory, which is made use of by housebreakers to enter into houses at night without fear of opposition.

“ I acknowledge that I never tried the secret of the hand of glory, but I have thrice assisted at the definitive judgment of certain criminals, who under the torture confessed having used it. Being asked what it was, how they procured it, and what were its uses and properties ? they answered, first, that the use of the Hand of Glory was to stupify those to whom it was presented, and to render them

Grose says,

2

motionless, insomuch that they could not stir and also that, if a candle in a dead hand be any more than if they were dead; secondly, introduced into a house, it will prevent those that it was the hand of a hanged man; and, who may be asleep from awaking. The inthirdly, that it must be prepared in the mates, however, were alarmed, and the robbers manner following:- Take the hand, right or fled, leaving the hand behind them." left, of a person hanged and exposed on the (0) The Ephialtes, or Nightmare, is called bighway; wrap it up in a piece of a shroud or by the common people Witch-riding. This is winding-sheet, in which let it be well squeezed, in fact an old Gothic or Scandinavian superto get out any small quantity of blood that stition. Mara, from whence our nightmare may have remained in it: then put it into an is derived, was in the Runic Theology a earthern vessel, with zimat, salt-petre, salt, spectre of the night, which seized men in and long pepper, the whole well powdered ; their sleep, and suddenly deprived them of leave it fifteen days in that vessel ; afterwards speech and motion. See Warton's first “ Distake it out, and expose it to the noon-tide sun sert. Pref. to Hist. Engl. Poet.” in the dog-days, till it is thoroughly dry; A great deal of curious learning upon the and if the sun is not sufficient, put it into an Nightmare, or Nacht-mare, as it is called in oven heated with fern and vervain: then com German, may be seen in Keysler's “ Antiquipose a kind of candle with the fat of a hanged tates Selectæ Septentrionales," p. 497 et seq. man, virgin wax, and Sisame of Lapland. The following is from the “ Glossarium The Hand of Glory is used as a candlestick to Suio-Goth." of Prof. Ihre, tom. ii. p.

135 : hold this candle when lighted. Its proper. “ Mara, Incubus, Ephialtes, Angl. Nightties are, that, wheresoever any one goes with mare. Nympham aliquam cui hoc nomen this dreadful instrument, the persons to whom fuerit, pro Dea cultam esse a Septentrionalibus it is presented will be deprived of all power of narrat Wastovius in Viti Aquilonia, nescio motion. On being asked if there was no

quo auctore,

De Vocis origine multi multa remedy, or antidote, to counteract this Charm, tradunt, sed quæ specie pleraque carent. Arthey said the hand of glory would cease to morice mor notat somnum brevem et crebro take effect, and thieves could not make use turbatum, mori somnum ejusmodi capere (v. of it, if the threshold of the door of the house, Pelletier in Dict. Britannique) quæ huc and other places by which they might enter, apprimé facere videntur. Alias observavit were anointed with an unguent composed of Schilterus, More pro Diabolo vel malo Dæthe gall of a black cat, the fat of a white hen, mone apud veteres Alemannos usurpari. Marand the blood of a screech-owl; which mix- lock, plica, quæ sæpe Capillos hominum ture must necessarily be prepared during the contorquet. Verisimile est, credidisse superdog-days."

stitiosam vetustatem, istiusmodi plicas Incubi Grose observes that this account (literally insultibus esse adscribendas. Richey 1. c. a translated from the French of “ Les Secrets du Mähre, equa, nominis rationem petit, quum Petit Albert," 12mo. Lion. 1751, p. 110) and equorum caudæ similem in modum sæpe the mode of preparation appear to have been complicatæ sint.” given by a Judge. In the latter there is a strik A writer in the “ Athenian Oracle," vol. i. ing resemblance to the Charm in “Macbeth." p. 293, thus accounts naturally for the Night

The following paragraph in the “ Observer", mare: “ 'Tis effected by vapours from crude newspaper of January 16th, 1831, shows that

and undigested concoctions, heat of blood, as the hand of glory is not unknown as a sup after hard drinking, and several other ways.”. posed Physical Charm in Ireland : “ On the

says,

a stone with a hole in night of the 3rd instant, some Irish thieves at it, hung at the bed's head, will prevent the tempted to commit a robbery on the estate of Nightmare ; it is therefore called a HagMr. Napper, of Lough-screw, county Meath, stone, from that disorder, which is occasioned They entered the house armed with a Dead by a hag or witch sitting on the stomach of man's Hand, with a lighted candle in it, be the party afflicted. It also prevents witches lieving in the superstitious notion that a

riding horses; for which purpose it is often candle placed in a dead man's hand will not tied to a Stable-key.” be seen by any but those by whom it is used; A stone not altogether unsimilar was the

(7) Grose

John, says,

Turquoise. “ The Turkeys,” says Fenton, in his Secrete Wonders of Nature,'' 4to. 1569, b.l. p. 51 b, “ doth move when there is any peril prepared to him that weareth it.”

The Turquoise (by Nicols in his “ Lapidary') is likewise said to take away all enmity, and to reconcile man and wife.

Other superstitious qualities are imputed to it, all of which were either monitory or preservative to the wearer. Holinshed, speaking of the death of King

And when the King suspected them (the Pears) to be poisoned indeed, by reason that such precious stones as he had about him cast forth a certain sweat, as it were bewraeing the poison,” &c. See Reed's edit. of Shaksp. vol. vii. p. 308.

The Ætites, or Eagle Stone, has been more than once mentioned as a Charm of singular use to parturient women. (See pp. 2, 405.) Levinus Lemnius says: “It makes women that are slippery able to conceive, being bound to the wrist of the left arm, by which from the heart toward the ring finger, next to the little finger, an artery runs; and if all the time the woman is great with child this jewel be worn on those parts, it strengthens the child, and there is no fear of abortion or miscarrying." English Transl. fol. 1658, p.

270. Ibid. p. 391 : “So Coral, Piony, Misseltoe, drive away the falling sicknesse, either hung about the neck or drank with wine." “ Rosemary purgeth houses, and a branch of this hung at the entrance of houses drives away devills and contagions of the plague; as also Ricinus, commonly called Palma Christi, because the leaves are like a hand opened wide." “ Corall bound to the neck takes off turbulent dreams and allays the nightly fears of child

Other jewells drive away hobgoblins, witches, night-mares, and other evill spirits, if we will believe the monuments of the ancients.”

(8) The following is the ingenious emendation of the reading in a passage in “ King Lear," act ii. sc. 5, by Dr. Farmer: “ Saint Withold footed thrice the oles,

He met the Night-mare and her nine foles." Oles is a provincial corruption of Wolds, or Olds.

6. That your stables may bee alwaies free

from the Queene of the Goblins,” is deprecated in Holiday's comedy of “TEXNOTAMIA," signat. E b.

So Coles, in his “ Art of Simpling," &c. 12mo. Lond. 1656, p. 68, “ It hath been credibly reported to me from severall hands, that if a man take an Elder stick, and cut it on both sides so that he preserve the joynt, and put it in bis pocket when he rides a journey, he shall never gall."

In Richard Flecknoe's “ Diarium,” &c. 8vo. Lond. 1658, p. 65, he mentions, “How Alder-stick in pocket carried

By horsemen who on highway feared, His breech should nere be gali d or wearied, Although he rid on trotting horse, Or cow, or cowl staff, which was worse : It had, he said, such vertuous force, Where vertue oft from Judas came, (Who hang'd himself upon the same, (c) () It is said in Gerrard's “ Herbal,” (Johnson's edition, p. 1428,) that “the ARBOR JUDÆ is thought to be that whereon Judas hanged himself, and not upon the elder-tree, as it is vulgarly said.”

I am clear that the mushrooms or excrescences of the elder-tree, called Auriculæ Judæ in Latin, and commonly rendered ". Jews' eares," ought to be translated Judas' Ears, from the popular superstition above mentioned.

Coles, in his “ Adam in Eden," speaking of “Jewes Eares,” says “it is called, in Latine, Fungus Sambucinus and Auricula Judæ : some having supposed the Elder-tree to be that whereon Judas hanged himself, and that, ever since, these mushroomes, like unto eares, have grown thereon, which I will not persuade you to believe." See also his “ Introduction to the Knowledge of Plants,” p. 40.

In “ Paradoxical Assertions and Philosophical Problems,” by R. H., 8vo. Lond. 1669, Second Part, p. 2, is a silly question, “ Why Jews are said to stink naturally? Is it because the Jews'-ears grow on stinking Elder (which tree that fux-headed Judas was falsly supposed to have hanged himself on), and so that natural stink hath been entailed on them and their posterities as it were ex traduce ?"

In the epilogue to Lilly's " Alexander and Campaspe," written in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, a passage is found which implies that elder was given at that time as a token of disgrace: “ Laurel for a garland, or Ealder for a disgrace.”.

Coles, in his "Introduction to the Knowledge of Plants," p. 63, tells us that “ Parsley was bestowed upon those that overcame in the Grecian games, in token of victory.” So also Bartholomæus, De Proprietatibus Rerum, lib. xvii. fol. 249, “ De Apio. Somtyme victours had garlondes of' it, as Isidore sayth, lib. xvii., Hercules made him fyrste garlondes of this herbe." I find the following in Green's Second Part of Conny-catching, signat. B 4. b, “Would in a braverie weare Parsley in his hat.”

ren.

p. 545,

For which, in sooth, he was to blame,)
Or 't had some other magick force,
To harden breech, or soften horse,
I leave 't to th' learned to discourse."
In Blagrave's Supplement to Culpepper's

English Physician," 8vo. Lond. 1674, p. 62, “ It is reported that, if you gently strike a horse that cannot stale, with a stick of this Elder, and bind some of the leaves to his belly, it will make him stale presently. It is also said, and some persons of gooil credit have told me, (but I never made any ex periment of it,) that if one ride with two little sticks of Elder in his pockets, he shall not fret nor ganl, let the horse go never so hard." The first of these superstitions is again mentioned in Cole's “ Adam in Eden.”

In the “ Athenian Oracle,'' vol. iii. is the following relation : “ A friend of mine, being lately upon the road a horseback, was extreamly incommoded by loss of leather ; which coming to the knowledge of one of his fellow travellers, he over-persuaded him to put two Elder sticks into his pocket, which not only eased him of his pain, but secured the remaining portion of posteriours, not yet excoriated, throughout the rest of his journey.

In “ An Hue and Crie after Cromwell,” 4to. Nol-nod, 1619, p. 4, we read : “ Cooke, the recorder, have an Elder Tree,

And steel a slip to reward treacherie."

There is a vulgar prejudice that, “if Bo be beaten with an Elder stick, it hinders their growth.”

(9) Lupton, in his fifth book of “ Notable Things," edit. 1660, 8vo. p. 182, says: " Make powder of the flowers of Elder, ga

a Midsummer-day, being before well dryed, and use a spoonfull thereof in a good draught of borage water, morning and evening, first and last, for the space of a month; and it will make you seem young a great while."

(") Camden, in his “ Ancient and Modern Manners of the Irish," tells us that “ to prevent Kites from stealing their chicken, they hang up in the house the Shells in which the chickens were hatched." See Gough's edit. of Camden, 1789, vol. iii. p. 659. See also Memorable Things, noted in the “ Description of the World,” p. 112, where it is added,

“ To spit upon cattel, they held it good against witchery."

(12) In the “Gent. Mag." for October 1804, p. 909, is given an engraving of an Ash-tree, growing by the side of Shirley-street (the road leading from Hockly House to Birmingham), at the edge of Shirley Heath, in Solihull parish. The upper part of a gap formed by the chizzel has closed, but the lower remains open. The tree is healthy and flourishing. Thomas Chillingworth, son of the owner of an adjoining farm, now about thirty-four years of age, was, when an infant of a year old, passed through a similar tree, now perfectly sound, which he preserves with so much care that he will not suffer a single branch to be touched, for it is believed the life of the patient depends on the life of the tree; and the moment that is cut down, be the patient ever so distant, the Rupture returns, and a mortification ensues. It is not, however, uncommon for persons to survive for a time the felling of the tree. In one case the Rupture suddenly returned, and mortification followed. These trees are left to close of themselves, or are closed with nails. The woodcutters very frequently meet with the latter. One felled on Bunnan's farm was found full of nails. This belief is so prevalent in this part of the country, that instances of trees that have been employed in the cure are very common. The like notions obtain credit in some parts of Essex. In a previous part of the same volume, p. 516, it is stated that this ash-tree stands “close to the cottage of Henry Rowe, whose infant son, Thomas Rowe, was drawn through the trunk or body of it in the year 1791, to cure him of a Rupture, the tree being then split open for the purpose

of

passing the child through it. The boy is now thirteen years and six months old: I have this day, June 10, 1804, seen the ashtree, and Thomas Rowe, as well as his father Henry Rowe, from whom I have received the above account; and he superstitiously believes that his son Thomas was cured of the Rupture by being drawn through the cleft in the said ash-tree, and by nothing else." R. G.

The writer first quoted, in p. 909, refers to the vulgar opinion concerning the power of Ash-trees to repel other maladies or evils, such as Shrew Mice, the stopping one of which animals alive into a hole bored in an ash is

thered on

imagined an infallible preventive of their ravages in lands.”

White, in the “ Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne,” informs us, p. 202, that “In a farm-yard near the middle of this village stands, at this day, a row of pollard. ashes, which, by the seams and long cicatrices down their sides, manifestly show that in former times they have been cleft asunder. These trees, when young and flexible, were severed and held open by wedges, while ruptured Children, stripped naked, were pushed through the apertures, under a persuasion that, by such a process, the poor babes would be cured of their infirmity. As soon as the operation was over, the tree, in the suffering part, was plas. tered with loam, and carefully swathed up. If the parts coalesced and soldered together, as usually fell out where the feat was performed with any adroitness at all, the party was cured; but, where the cleft continued to gape, the operation, it was supposed, would prove ineffectual.

Having occasion to enlarge my garden not long since, I cut down two or three such trees, one of which did not grow together.

* We have several persons now living in the village who, in their childhood, were supposed to be healed by this superstitious ceremony, derived down perhaps from our Saxon ancestors, who practised it before their conversion to Christianity.

“ At the south corner of the plestor, or area, near the church, there stood, about twenty years ago, a very old grotesque hollow pollard-ash, which for ages had been looked on with no small veneration as a Shrew-Ash. Now a shrewash is an ash whose twigs or branches, when gently applied to the limbs of cattle, will immediately relieve the pains which a beast suffers from the running of a shrew-mouse over the part affected : for it is supposed that a shrew-mouse is of so baneful and deleterious a nature, that wherever it creeps over a beast, be it horse, cow, or sheep, the suffering animal is afflicted with cruel anguish, and threatened with the loss of the use of the limb. Against this accident, to which they were continually liable, our provident forefathers always kept a Shrew-Ash at hand, which, when once medicated, would maintain its virtue for ever. A shrew-ash was made thus (for a similar practice see Plott's “Staffordshire"] : Into the body

of the tree a deep hole was bored with an auger, and a poor devoted shrew-mouse was thrust in alive, and plugged in, no doubt, with several quaint incantations long since forgotten. As the ceremonies necessary for such a consecration are no longer understood, all succession is at an end, and no such tree is known to subsist in the manor or hundred.

“As to that on the plestor, 'the late vicar stubb'd and burnt it,' when he was waywarden, regardless of the remonstrances of the by-standers, who interceded in vain for its preservation, urging its power and efficacy, and alleging that it had been • Religione patrum multos servata per an

nos.'"(~) (a) The following illustration of the barbarous practice of enclosing field-mice was received by Mr. Brand, in a letter from Robt. Studley Vidal, Esq., of Cornborough, near Biddeford, a gentleman to whom he was much indebted for incidental information on the local customs of Devonshire; dated May 9th, 1806 :

“ An usage of the superstitious kind has just come under my notice, and which, as the pen is in my hand, I will shortly describe, thongh I rather think it is not peculiar to these parts. A neighbour of mine, on examining his sheep the other day, found that one of them had entirely lost the use of its hinder parts. On seeing it I expressed an opinion that the animal must have received a blow across the back, or some other sort of violence, which had injured the spinal marrow, and thus rendered it paralytic: but I was soon given to understand that my remarks only served to prove how little I knew of country affairs, for that the affection of the sheep was nothing uncommon, and that the cause of it was well known, namely, a mouse having crept over its back. I could not but smile at the idea ; which my instructor considering as a mark of incredulity, he proceeded very gravely to inform me that I should be convinced of the truth of what he said by the means which he would use to restore the animal, and which were never known to fail. accordingly despatched his people here and there in quest of field-mouse; and, having procured one, he told me that he should carry it to a particular tree at some distance, and, enclosing it within a hollow in the trunk, leave it there to perish. He further informed me that he should bring back some of the branches of the tree with him for the purpose of their being drawn now and then across the sheep's back; and concluded by assuring me with a very scientific look that I should soon be convinced of the efficacy of this process, for that, as

He

as the poor devoted mouse had yielded up his life a prey to famine, the sheep would be restored to its former strength and vigour. I can, however, state with certainty, that the sheep was not at all benefited by this mysterious sacrifice of the mouse. The tree, I find, is of the sort called witch-elm, or witch-hazel."

soon

« PreviousContinue »